Direct Composting In Your Vegetable Garden

direct composting

If you do not like the idea of having a compost pile or composting equipment in your yard then direct composting (or trench composting) might be for you. Some localities and gated communities do not allow compost piles, but you can use direct composting as an alternative and still supply your garden with rich compost. Direct composting can serve two purposes – add valuable nutrients to your garden soil, and create an alternative method of eliminating kitchen scraps without them going to waste in a landfill.

What Is Direct Composting?

Direct composting in your garden is very simple – you are basically burying your organic wastes underneath the garden soil where it will decompose into rich compost.

Direct composting is not a new concept. American Indians used a form of direct composting when planting their crops. Some tribes would place fish heads, or whole fish, to the bottom of planting holes while sowing seeds.

The planting holes were dug deeper than needed, then the fish parts were placed at the bottom of the hole. They were then covered by a small layer of soil, and the seeds were planted. The fish parts would decompose, feeding the crop as it grew.

Direct composting can give your soil a very quick pop of nutrients just before planting, or throughout the growing season. This method of composting can also attract beneficial earthworms to your garden. Earthworms help to aerate the soil, and provide nutrients through their casings (droppings).

What Materials Can Be Used With Direct Composting?

The same materials that can be used in a compost pile can be used when direct composting. Organic kitchen scraps, such as fruits and vegetables (cooked or raw), are the best materials to use with direct composting because they break down very quickly.

Grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, newspaper, and organic yard debris can be used as well, but should be shredded or chopped up as finely as possible to quicken the decomposition rate.

Note: Never use meats, diary products, or dog and cat feces for composting.

How Do I Direct Compost In My Garden?

There are many different ways to trench compost in your garden, but the easiest way is to bury the organic materials where you plan to plant your crops. Here is how I used direct composting for an area that I’m am going to plant pole beans.

I begin by clearing out the area that I want to direct compost. I had cucumbers planted here, but they had a short life. I have removed the old vines from the trellis, and raked all the mulch out of the way.

Prepare The Area For Trench Composting

Now the area is ready to dig the holes for the organic materials. Remember, you want to dig the holes at least 12 to 14 inches deep. I am digging a trench for my pole beans that is about 28 inches long and 14 inches deep.

Dig The Trench

Putting In The Good Stuff

With the hole, or trench dug out, it is time to place about 4 inches of organic material in the hole. Here is a list of what I put into my direct composting holes:

  • tomato peels and ends
  • potato peels
  • radish tops
  • cucumber peels
  • beet tops
  • dead leaves
  • a little grass clippings
  • a handful of old cypress mulch
  • yellow squash & zucchini ends
  • used coffee grounds
  • lettuce that was left over from a salad (no salad dressing)
  • carrot peels

REMEMBER! Never use meat, dairy products, or cat and dog feces in compost.

This is what I used in my direct compost hole, you can use these or any other combination of organic materials.

Add Composting Materials To The Trench

Now that the trench is filled three to four inches with organic materials, take your foot and lightly compact the items in the hole. Fill the hole up with six to eight inches with the soil you dug up, and gently tamp it with your foot.

Cover The Trench With SoilCover The Trench Completely

That is all there is to direct composting! I’ll wait a couple weeks before I plant my pole bean seeds ( I had to order them so it will probably take 7 – 10 days for them to get here any way). Once I am ready to plant, I will use a garden fork to gently break the soil, and aerate the compost underneath where I’m planting.

You can direct compost during winter months (if the garden area isn’t covered with snow), but the decomposition will not begin until the soil warms in spring. The microorganisms that break down organic matter are not active during winter months.

Start Composting Today

7 Comments on Direct Composting In Your Vegetable Garden

  1. This is great idea. I’ve never thought of doing direct composting before. I think this is better if you are in hurry and have to start planting immediately.
    .-= Free Home improvement Stuff´s last blog ..Cross Samsung HDTV off your wish list =-.

  2. I love the simplicity and common sense of this idea. Great post.

  3. Great post! Every week, I buy lots of organic fruits and vegetables, wash them carefully and then I prepare them for cooking. I pull off the ugly leaves, I remove the flesh from the rind, I cut off the ends, I remove the outer layers, etc. I use only the most tender and tastiest parts of the vegetables for my clients.

    This leaves a large pile of organic kitchen scraps that is perfect for composting, I’ve been saying I need to compost, for a long time. This year, I’ve joined a CSA with Sang Lee Farms and I expect to get large quantities of fruits and vegetables that will create piles of kitchen scraps for composting. Well this year, I’ve taken another step to be greener by purchasing a composter and setting it up behind my shed.
    I have way too many scraps to use this technique.
    Chef Vanda
    The Organic Personal Chef

  4. Can you direct compost veggies that have sauces or dressings on them? I made a side dish that has bread covered with burratta cheese, and tomatoes, sliced sweet onions and fresh basil leaves. The veggies were sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Could I have put the left over veggies in the garden? Also, can you include the coffee filter along with the coffee when you put that kind of stuff in the garden

    • Hi Dennis – No, you should never compost veggies that have oils or salad dressing on them. If it’s just a tiny bit then it’s ok in moderation, but if they are coated with it, no. It’s best to stick with vegetation for any type of composting. Avoid adding any breads, dairy products, meats, and oils to your compost.

      You can compost coffee filters as long as they are 100% paper and there is no plastics in it.

  5. Thanks for the direct composting method.. very interesting and Great idea!
    Just renewing the earth alone is great..

  6. I have just stared gardening and believe I have made my first mistake. I have spread fresh ,uncomposited hourse manure on my unplanted topsoil. I have mixed it into the soil.
    How long do I need to wait before planting ?

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